Woelk to end 42-year bank career

Harriet Woelk will be the guest of honor Wednesday at an afternoon open house honor her for more than four decades of service to bank customers.Don Ratzlaff / Free PressEmprise Bank at the intersection of Main Street and Grand Avenue in Hills?boro won?t be quite the same when Harriet Woelk steps into retirement later this week after 42 years of helping customers with their financial needs.

?I have enjoyed the work of dealing with people, trying to help them as best I could and making them feel comfortable coming into the bank and not feel intimidated,? Woelk said.

Emprise Bank will be hosting an open house in her honor from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today.

Getting started

Woelk was on staff at Emprise Bank long before it became Emprise Bank.

?It was First National Bank when I first started, then switched over to Emprise (in the late 1980s),? she said. ?I have a lot of good memories.?

Woelk started at First National in 1972, following her graduation from Hills?boro High School in 1971 and a year of business school in Salina.

?Of course, you look for a job when you get out of school,? Woelk said. ?There was an opportunity here in the bookkeeping department?where at that time everybody kind of started.

?I was able to get the job.?

Woelk was pretty much out of sight of the public as she toiled in the old bank building.

?The bookkeeping room was a back room, and there was a proof machine back there, too,? Woelk recalled. ?Back then there were no computers in the bank, Everything was done by hand. I did a lot of filing of checks.

?I really didn?t have any customer contact back then, other than if somebody phoned in. The tellers had all the customer contact back then.?

Woelk said she worked three to four years in that capacity.

?Then one of the tellers resigned, so I moved up the teller line,? she said. ?By that time, we were in the new building.?

First National Bank tore down the old building in 1974 and moved into the current the following year. That was nearly 40 years ago, but to this day, Woelk clearly recalls one of the more unusual features of the former structure.

?I remember in the old bank building there was a basement that they used to call the cellar or dungeon,? she said. ?It was dark and kind of creepy down there. You just didn?t go down there very often?and you didn?t want to go down there if you didn?t have to.

?I think I was down there maybe one time, and even then I wasn?t quite sure what was down there. I know the men?s restroom was down there. They had a cord that went across the stairs. If that cord was closed, then you definitely did not go down there.

?That?s kind of how it was in those days.?

Changing times

More than the building changed during Woelk?s tenure. Her job description did, too.

?I was on the teller line for at least 10 years, then I moved to what they call a customer service representative,? she said. ?I sat behind the desk and worked with new accounts, certificates of deposit?that type of thing.

?I did that for a number of years, then they shifted some roles in the bank and I moved back to the teller line.?

Woelk estimates that 35 of her 42 years with the bank were spent dealing with customers. It?s one of the things she?ll miss most when she retires.

?I?ve met a lot of wonderful people and enjoy that contact,? she said. ?It?s fun, it?s interesting. You get to have a little bit of a relationship with each customer you deal with. And you get to know a little bit more about them each time you see them.?

Woelk said she won?t miss the ongoing challenge of trying to keep up with ever- changing technology.

?I guess the biggest adjust?ment has been moving from doing everything by hand to using technology, and trying to keep up with the process.

?I wouldn?t say I?m a natural-born tech person,? she added with a smile. ?There are a lot of people who know more about computers than I do. I basically know enough to do my job?and not a whole lot more than that.?

Woelk?s career is summed up best through the customers she?s served and the bank staff with whom she?s worked over these four decades.

?I?ll miss the customers, because I?ve met a lot of wonderful people, and I will miss the employees a lot,? she said. ?I?ve been very blessed to have been able to work with a lot of wonderful people through the years.

?I?ve seen a lot of people come and go,? she added. ?Some of the people, I can?t remember their names anymore, but some I do. A lot of them don?t live around here anymore.?

Looking ahead

Woelk said she is looking forward to the next chapter of her life. She expects to find more time to pursue reading, playing the piano, and pursing various responsibilities she enjoys at Goessel Mennonite Church.

She?s thinking of rekindling her past interest in art and sketching.

?My husband (Mark) always is telling me, you have talent why don?t you do this type of thing.?

Most of all, Woelk said she?s looking forward to managing her own time.

?I guess it?s just living at a slower pace, doing things at my own speed and not feeling that I?m rushed to do this or that and have to meet a time crunch on something,? she said. ?I?ll be able to think things out more?figuring out what I want to do and when I want to do it.?

Will she miss the banking world?

?I don?t think I?m going to miss it at first,? she said. ?But when things sink in, then I?ll probably will. It?s been my pleasure to be able to work for Emprise Bank that long.?

Tags from the story
, ,
Written By
More from Don Ratzlaff
HHS?girls derail Herington by 20
A strong start and a strong finish carried the Hillsboro girls to...
Read More